As titles like Robotron: 2084, Smash TV, and the sum of the Geometry Wars series have demonstrated, the twin-stick shooter can be a wholly immersive experience. Eluding hordes of encroaching enemies, while simultaneously snatching bonuses and monitoring the angle of your firepower requires a heightened level of concentration, potentially putting participants in a state of deep immersion. While many games permit players to grab a quick glimpse of a clock, the genre often offers no such reprieve, forcing players to obsessively watch each corner of the screen. As such, it’s not surprising to sink hours into a twin-stick shooter, completely losing track of time.
And that’s a phenomenon that’s likely to happen with the console and PC release of Confused Pelican’s Iron Crypticle. Built from the foundations of their PC title, Iron Fisticle, this revision modifies a number of its predecessor’s elements, fashioning a title that should appeal to aficionados of old-school, arcade-like action.
Gaming veterans will immediately identify the game’s inspirations. Initially, players select a protagonist who recalls Ghosts ‘N Goblins’ unflappable Sir Arthur. Although making contact with enemies won’t strip the hero down to his skivvies, you’ll still have to be vigilant as a few hits can deplete your health bar and end the game. The game’s pixelated enemies draw from gaming’s past, with Frankenstein’s monsters that shamble about like Berserk’s robots and invincible foes in hot pursuit in if you take too long, recalling the threat of Evil Otto. Other creatures look like the dividing globules of Alien Syndrome, or the capricious crawlers from Centipede, revealing Confused Pelican’s careful study of arcade classics.
To test the visual acuity of players, stages also have a number of immobile features, from skull-shaped mines, exploding barrels, weapon pick-ups and treasure chests filled with coin. On top of this, dispatched enemies drop an assortment of point-pushing bonuses, and if you collect them in quick succession, the value escalates Bubble Bobble-style. After you pick up eight in a row, there’s a stat-augmenting power-up will show up, which can improve your movement speed, weapon strength, fire rate, and pick-up duration. Given the game’s arcade-style action, it’s not surprisingly to find that these perks lack permanence, which might have been an intriguing decision. That said, there are long-term weapon unlocks to help offset any feeling of stagnancy.
Unlike Fisticle, which had diminutive overworld maps, Iron Crypticle extends a much larger path to the bosses, revealing room types as you branch through the diagram. From darkened cemeteries where only the area immediately around your character is fully visible, to shops, and even a side-scrolling mini-game, there’s a decent amount of diversity to be found. More importantly, Crypticle lets gamers decide if they want to make a beeline for the boss or take their time, potentially leveling up their character before confronting the big bad.
Throughout the trek, there’s a number of satisfying risk/reward proposition. Your default weapon, a throwing ax, has an attack rate that just deliberate enough to keep you moving- ideally toward one of the weapon power-ups which sporadically spawn on-screen. There’s also the option to bring up to three local participants in for co-operative play, with Crypticle ramping up the difficulty appropriately as each new knight joins the fray. Occasionally, putting yourself in peril pay dividends. Pick up a book that pops up and you’ll unlock a bit of helpful information in the game’s ledger, that might offer a hint about things like your dashing or atomic fist abilities.
Mercifully, Iron Crypticle has few disadvantages. Sure, some might bemoan the lack the variety or skeletal storyline, but this is an arcade-inspired game that demands mastery from its participants. Stick with it, and you will see your scores ratchet up the leaderboard, as you learn the best method to approach each different threat. Those who appreciate the look of playing of a CRT monitor will lament the loss of a scan-line option, a possibility that was in Iron Fistical.
Given the game’s equitable ten-dollar price, Iron Crypticle is certainty worthy of a purchase, providing twin-stick shooter fans with a polished, proficient recreation that’s capable of pilfering your leisure hours. On Steam, the deal is sweetened more, with a launch discount, as for those who previously purchased Iron Fisticle, a free upgrade to this revision.
Iron Cryptical was played on PS4, Xbox One,
and PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Developer: Confused Pelican
Publisher: Tikipod Ltd.
Release date: July 12th, 2017
Price: $9.99 on console via PlayStation Store and Xbox Games Store, $9.99 via Steam currently on sale for $8.99